I am reading a French grammar book and came across a part I find a bit confusing. It states the following:
Je ne crois pas que Daniel est coupable. I don’t think Daniel is guilty.
Je ne crois pas que Daniel soit coupable. I don’t think Daniel is guilty.
The first sentence above means “I am actually sure Daniel is innocent.” In the second example, there is some doubt about his guilt (or innocence). The difference will be detected in context and with the intonation of the voice or through gestures.
I've never been particularly skilled at using the subjunctive, but I find this slightly difficult to understand and was wondering if someone could elaborate on what is mentioned in the book, potentially through other examples.
What confuses me specifically is why a distinction is needed when one is [100%] certain of something (indicative) as opposed to when one believes something, but not "adamantly," if that is the right word for it (subjunctive). It seems odd to have "degrees" of belief in this particular instance (either you believe Daniel is innocent, or you don't).
Is such a distinction common in everyday French? Is the indicative/subjunctive used more in instances like this? Whenever I've learned about use of the subjunctive, frequently I see that "only subjunctive must be used after ______ que" or "only indicative must be used after ______ que" so the idea that both could be used and that it only depends on the speaker's certainty confuses me.